Friday, June 26, 2020

How my parents met

How did my mother happen to come to Danvers?  Where did she meet my father? He had family in Danvers, but she did not.

She was born in New Jersey (1912) and moved with her family to Westport, Connecticut, when she was six, living the rest of her childhood in a house that her architect father built there. She attended a women's college in Poughkeepsie, New York, and became active in the Outing Club. College outing club trips (hiking, skiing, camping) filled many weekends. She helped found the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association (IOCA), which greatly facilitated co-ed weekend trips. Through IOCA she met many wonderful guys, some of whom remained life-long friends. She almost married one fellow, but changed her mind and was still single in the late 1930's. 

After college she taught school. In the summers of 1938 and 1939 she worked in Putney, Vermont, as a camp counselor at the Putney Summer Work Camp. Also working at Putney was Al Green, who did general maintenance for the Putney School. The school campus included a Youth Hostel where guests and travelers could stay for a modest fee. A friend of Al's stayed in that Youth Hostel whenever he came to visit...

That visiting friend was Nathan ("Nick") Nichols, a 1934 graduate of Massachusetts State College in Amherst. Nick had been active in MSC's outing club. When visiting Al, he met Janet ("Cut") Cutler, 1934 graduate of Vassar College.  I don't know the beginning details, but years later (decades later) I came across a packet of the letters they had written to each other in 1939 and early 1940. They were making arrangements for their wedding and trying to figure out where to live.

Nathan and Janet married in June 1940 in a garden ceremony at her parents' home in Westport. The wedding, officiated by Rev. William S. Nichols, was attended by many Nichols relatives from Danvers. The couple rented a small house that Nathan's father had recently built to provide income after his retirement from ministry. Thus my mother began her married life in that small Cape-Cod style house at 120 Nichols St, Danvers, right next door to her in-laws.

It was a "temporary" arrangement, they said. I know from their letters that they had been seeking other housing options, but nothing affordable and acceptable had been found in time. They saved money and hoped for a larger house "someday" but after a few years they purchased that cape and added a few modest rooms to accommodate their growing family. I was born in 1943 and my sister came in 1945. I remember going on some house-hunting excursions with my parents, but nothing came of those.  I spent the first 14 years of my life in that little house!

In 1958 we moved across the street into a new house that my parents (and Grandfather Cutler,  architect) had designed. It was a spacious colonial with large kitchen, a real dining room, a den, and four bedrooms. At last we had a real guest room, though, ironically, my parents had fewer guests by then. Their outing club friends from college years, who used to drop by our little house and sleep on the living-room couch, were now busy with families of their own.

It was also ironic that I only lived one full year in that new house. As I packed up in fall 1959 to go the Putney School, I realized that – from then on – I'd only be back in Danvers for vacation periods. I was beginning the transition away from my parents' home. 

I had NO idea that I was going to the site where my parents had originally met!  I didn't learn that bit of history until some years later.

(See my previous post about my first visit to Putney, and my mother's influence in the decision to consider that private school for me.)

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